'Internal error': Website crashes as Victorian holidaymakers vie for travel vouchers
The state government planned to open registration for 40,000 travel vouchers online at 10am, with applicants able to claim $200 back on accommodation, tours or ticket prices if they spend at least $400 on a regional Victorian holiday.
The discount can only be redeemed after the travel has been taken, with the first round of vouchers to only apply to travel in the regions, including the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley, between December 12 and January 22.
A Business Victoria spokesman said the website was "experiencing heavy demand for regional travel vouchers, which has resulted in the application page going offline".
"Business Victoria is working to resolve this issue," he said, but he could not say how soon the website would be back online.
Age reader Nick said he believed the productivity of Victoria's workforce fell to zero per cent about 10am, "with everyone madly hitting the refresh button on their [internet] browsers".
"The 'Apply Now' button on the page also doesn't seem to have been activated, it's like a Where's Wally puzzle trying to find it!" he said.
Reader Maddi said she had already booked a New Year's trip to Phillip Island. "We'll still be going but would love a small financial bump after a difficult year," she said.
Lou assumed the Victorian government had planned "for a huge uptake by Melburnians and therefore would have ensured its IT platforms were up to scratch".
"Extremely disappointed. What a waste of time/a lot of hype for nothing," Lou said.
In order to access the vouchers, Victorians must visit the business.vic.gov.au website and register their details. You must be a Victorian 18 years or older, with one discount per household.
After their holiday, applicants will need to produce invoices and receipts to prove they spent at least $400 on approved travel by the cut off date of February 5. The $200 will then be credited to a nominated bank account.
Friday's release is the first of three rounds, with 120,000 vouchers in total to be given out to Victorians. The second round of 40,000 vouchers will open on January 20, for travel between January 27 and April 1.
The final round will be released on March 30, for travel between April 6 and May 31.
On the Business Victoria website, it states tourists may be audited by the Victorian government and will need to be prepared to produce receipts for up to four years after their travel.
"If any information in the registration is found to be false or misleading, any grant awarded to the applicant will have to be repaid on demand by the Victorian government," the website states.
Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said while the scheme for regional Victoria was broader than in other parts of Australia, more vouchers are desperately needed to support Melbourne's hospitality and tourism businesses.
She said the CBD's tourism industry was particularly struggling because Melbourne heavily relied on international visitors, but operators "always knew regional areas were going to recover more quickly than the CBD".
"We do firmly believe that - hopefully - there will be a big rush, we’d like to see as many people travelling around our regions as possible," Ms Mariani told radio station 3AW on Friday morning.
There are now 409 international arrivals in Melbourne quarantine hotels, including 24 people with COVID-19 symptoms or complex health needs in the Novotel "hot hotel", the state government said.
All international arrivals who land in Melbourne from Friday will spend Christmas Day in hotel quarantine, as their fortnight in mandatory isolation will not end before December 25.
Meanwhile, Australia's leaders were in the same room for the first time in nine months for Friday's national cabinet meeting, except for Western Australia's Premier Mark McGowan, whose state's health advice doesn't allow him to be near South Australians.
Victoria and the ACT were expected to use the meeting to press the Commonwealth for a proper plan to bring international students back to Australian universities early in the new year.
National cabinet was also due to receive an update on plans for the vaccine rollout, the economic situation, each state's progress on reopening, and how the group should work in the future.
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Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org